The 2012-13 edition of Pro Basketball Prospectus has arrived, and if you want to immerse yourself in top-notch NBA analysis, I would highly recommend that you shell out the $9.98 for this bit of goodness. The book - put together by the excellent Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle among a couple other contributors - can be downloaded via PDF, which is really convenient. There are essays for every team, five-year trends and thorough analysis of every single player. Really great stuff.
Making this whole project even more cool is the fact that the Basketball Prospectus guys ask a member of each team in the NBA Blogosphere to provide a little insight. And as in prior years for the Bulls, your friendly BullsBlogger (you actually learn his full name if you read it!) has the honor of dropping some Bulls knowledge.
So how about that Bulls section?
Doolittle had the "pleasure" of writing about the Derrick Rose injury and the ensuing decimation of the roster this offseason, and I'd say he gives a very even-handed take on what happened. Doolittle recognizes that this offseason upset many fans, noting that the ongoing allegiance to the team through thick and thin should maybe warrant a little more dalliance into the luxury tax. But he also admits that the Bulls did face some really tough decisions this offseason, made even tougher by the Rose injury, and that trimming the payroll the way they did may have been the most wise way to go about business. I, of course, don't agree, but maybe I'll be the one proven wrong. We'll just have to wait and see.
As for this season, Pelton's SCHOENE projection system (explained here) has slotted the Bulls at 46 wins this season and a sixth place finish in the Eastern Conference. Considering I'm pegging them at 47 wins for the year, I concur with that projection.
SCHOENE projects the Bulls to struggle offensively, as the dip from Rose to Hinrich as well as the loss of Kyle Korver will really hurt on that end. Defensively, there's a slight fall projected, but not one that keeps them out of the top five in the league defensively.
Doolittle leaves us with this, closing with some lyrics from this little ditty:
What will the new chemistry be like? There is certainly a sense that Chicago overachieved during the regular season the last two years, mostly due to the wizardry of Thibodeau. Can he craft that same spirit with a new group? Will our tempered expectations be far surpassed simply because Thibodeau demands consistent effort in every minute of every game? If so, a two-seed isn't totally out of the question in a conference that appears to have a quagmire behind Miami. An eight-seed isn't impossible, either.
As for the future, let's not forget that with the more severe luxury tax kicking in, teams may be looking to unload good players and their collective market value may plummet. Perhaps that's part of Chicago's plan, though the decision makers would never say that, or much of anything else, publicly. The question is, has the NBA become a game of bean counters manipulating the CBA, or is it still a league where teams try to win basketball games? For the Bulls, whose regular season success came in spite of a lack of continuity caused by injuries, focusing on the finances means that a team that was championship-worthy never got a full shot at fulfilling one of its possible destinies.
For years with this franchise, it's always seemed to be about promises of what's to come. It's like that Doors song: The future is uncertain and the end is always near.
I don't think I could have put it much better myself. Actually, I know I couldn't have.
Now, let's take a look at the analysis of some of the players.
The Korver comparison is naturally made here, and we see some of the usual stuff about how Belinelli is better at creating for himself. Ultimately, however, the conclusion is made that Korver has more "added-value quantities on both ends of the floor." This is something I have argued here before. Belinelli may be a bit more multi-faceted than Korver, but it's not like he does anything at a really high level. Korver is truly an elite shooter and one of the best in the league at using screens to free himself for good looks. And despite some of his physical limitations, he became a respectable defender, something that Belinelli is not as of yet. Maybe more time with Thibs will help .
Boozer is called the "most crucial player" on the team this season, and it's a point certainly well argued. With Rose out, Thibs will look to run an inside-out attack with Boozer at the center of it. Both Boozer and Noah are excellent passers, and they could possibly get something good going with high-low action. If Boozer's decline doesn't hit him rapidly as worried by yfBB, he could be in line for a really nice season. Of course, this preseason hasn't exactly given us reason to be encouraged, sans one great performance against a JV Timberwolves squad.
Nothing too revelatory here, although it's implied that Deng will likely be moved at some point in the next few years in order to upgrade the offense. Also, it was amusing to read about how Deng "looks older after games, with his long, bony legs buried in ice." After watching Deng play 37 minutes against the Wolves on Friday, expect plenty more of that this season.
Said to "have as much value as any bench player in the league." When you look at the advanced stats, it's nearly impossible to disagree. The Bulls were much better with Gibson on the court last season, which is why he ended up closing so many games. He was also marvelous in the playoffs before joining a bunch of his other teammates on the injury report. He stands to improve some on offense, especially with his face-up jumper, which he took with semi-regularity last season with so-so results.
Based on how things played out, the Hamilton signing was deemed "unnecessary." Hindsight is 20/20 and I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't at least sort of excited when the Bulls signed him last offseason. And as noted, the Bulls played really well when they had their full complement of players, going 14-2. But the injuries killed everything, and Hamilton's health remains a huge question mark. He's looked very good this preseason, but I don't think I'm alone in waiting for another part of his body to fall off. If he can stay healthy, he could really help the Bulls' offense (and maybe improve his trade value so they can get under the tax!). If not, well, the Bulls can buy him out for $1 million next year.
I have to disagree with the first line of the analysis, because no, everyone in Chicago is not "thrilled to have Kirk Hinrich back in the Bulls' fold." Maybe this was just referring to the organization, which in that case, it would be true. Anyway, the argument is made that Hinrich COULD be the perfect third guard for the Bulls and that Thibs will love him. However, there's just as likely a chance that he'll be perfectly meh. He's been pretty solid this preseason, although when you look at some of the numbers, they really aren't that great. I'm skeptical, but I'm hoping for the best. Oh, did you know he still owned a house in the area these past few years? (that was actually mentioned in the section)
I found Noah's section to be quite interesting. The first half focuses on Bill Russell's rave reviews of Jo from this summer, and then delves into Noah's offensive game, once again bringing up that high-low dynamic with Boozer. But the second part really stood out to me, as Noah's defense is essentially called overrated. When you look at the evidence, there may be a shred of truth to it, although I don't think I would go that far. The Bulls' Defensive Rating was 9.3 points better with Noah off the floor last season, but some of that can be explained by just how good Gibson and Omer Asik were. Also, Boozer. Nevertheless, with Asik gone, Noah will have to step up defensively.
This section focuses a lot on the parallels between Rose's injury and Michael Jordan's foot injury early in his career. There's some worry that Rose will rush to come back in order to bolster the Bulls for a playoff run, which is what Jordan did when he broke his foot. But based on what Rose himself and Jerry Reinsdorf have said, I don't think that will be the case here. In the end, there's a chance this layoff actually benefits Rose, and as long as he regains all the tools that make him so special, "there is little reason to doubt that more "MVP-caliber seasons lie ahead for Rose in the future."